English Premiership

Osman eyes Everton milestone

2014-11-21 08:38
Leon Osman (AP)

Liverpool - Everton manager Roberto Martinez has called Leon Osman an "incredible example" to aspiring players as he prepares for his 400th appearance for the club against West Ham United on Saturday.

Osman, who made his debut against Tottenham Hotspur in January 2003, signed a one-year contract extension earlier this month and Martinez says the 33-year-old remains a key figure at Goodison Park.

"I'm sure people know the names of the other players who have reached 400 appearances. There are not many from the modern era," Martinez said.

"It is so difficult to find such a loyal footballer who can also cope with the demands of the modern game. Leon has created some incredible moments for Everton. We are extremely proud of him.

"We also know he is going to be an incredible example for the club and for the youngsters to follow because he is someone who knows how to face adversity and go on to have a big role here.

"It's a special year for Leon with it being his testimonial year. All of these landmarks represent, and give an insight into, what an incredible career he is having."

Osman looks set to get his chance against the Hammers with midfielders James McCarthy (hamstring) and Gareth Barry (ankle) both doubtful, along with left-back Leighton Baines (hamstring).

West Ham are fourth in the Premier League table with 18 points, four ahead of Everton, and Martinez believes the east London club are genuine contenders for a top-six finish this season.

"West Ham have been the most consistent team in the Premier League and it wasn't by accident," said the Spaniard.

"The way they play is very brave. They've a lot of attackers. They are challenging for a European place and facing them will be one of our biggest challenges."

Sam Allardyce, the West Ham manager, believes the period before the turn of the year will determine the outcome of his side's campaign following their impressive start.

"We have a vital part of the season coming up," he said. "November and December is a tough time and it will determine where we finish.

"There isn't an international break for a long time so we don't have an opportunity to regroup if necessary, so it will be a big test for us."

Striker Diafra Sakho and midfielder Stewart Downing are both doubtful for the trip to Merseyside after returning from international duty with injuries.

A knee injury forced Downing out of England's 3-1 win over Scotland at half-time, while Sakho sat out Senegal's meeting with Botswana due to a back problem.

"One of the reasons why we are in fourth spot is the quality of Sakho's goals and the performances of Downing," said Allardyce.

"But after the Aston Villa match (a 0-0 draw), because of the international breaks, through no fault of our own we might have two players who have been on top form missing for the Everton game.

"It's something we have to cope with as a squad. It's disappointing after finishing against Aston Villa to lose potentially two of your players. But that is the way it is these days."


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